December 9, 2008

12/7/2008 JVNA Online Newsletter

Shalom everyone,

This update/Jewish Vegetarians of North America (JVNA) Online Newsletter has the following items:

1. Are We Ready To Save the World? YES WE CAN!

2. A Great Opportunity to Get DVDs to Many More People

3. Chanukah and Vegetarianism

4. Is Fur a Jewish Issue?

[no # 5]

6. Resolution on Energy To Be Sent to Jewish Center for Public Affairs Plenum

7. Campaign to Urge President-Elect Obama to Prioritize Action on Climate Change

8. Israeli Clerics Pray for Rain

9. NY Times Front Page Article Connects Animal-Agriculture to Global Climate Change

10. Web Site Facilitates Letters to Publications Throughout the World

11. Major Article in New Scientist Magazine Stresses Dietary Connections to Global Warming

12. Recent Articles on the Agriprocessors Situation

13. Vegan Guide to New York City - 2009 Published

14. Can We Create a Sane US Food Policy?

15. Helping Vegetarian Groups and Businesses in This Difficult Economic Time

Some material has been deferred to a later update/newsletter to keep this one from being even longer.

[Materials in brackets like this [ ] within an article or forwarded message are my editorial notes/comments.]

Opinions expressed do not necessarily represent the views of the JVNA, unless otherwise indicated, but may be presented to increase awareness and/or to encourage respectful dialogue. Also, material re conferences, retreats, forums, trips, and other events does not necessarily imply endorsement by JVNA or endorsement of the kashrut, Shabbat observances, or any other Jewish observances, but may be presented for informational purposes. Please use e-mail addresses, telephone numbers, and web sites to get further information about any event that you are interested in. Also, JVNA does not necessarily agree with all positions of groups whose views are included or whose events are announced in this newsletter.

As always, your comments and suggestions are very welcome.



1. Are We Ready To Save the World? YES WE CAN!

Bottom line: As indicated by daily news headlines, the world is rapidly approaching an unprecedented catastrophe from global warming and other environmental threats.

Bottom line: Some climate experts are warning that global warming may reach a tipping point and spiral out of control within a few years unless major changes soon occur.

Bottom line: Israel now faces its severest drought in its history, and the Israeli Union for Environmental Defense projects major heat waves, a decrease of rainfall of up to 30%, severe storms and a flooding of the coastal Mediterranean plain where most Israelis live, if present trends continue.

Bottom line: Animal-based agriculture emits almost 20% of greenhouse gases (in CO2 equivalents), and some studies indicate far more, and the number of farmed animals is projected to double by 2050. Hence, we will not be able to reach greenhouse gas emission goals unless there is a major global shift to vegan diets.

Conclusion: Our efforts to educate Jews and other on the absolute need to sharply reduce the consumption of meat and other animal products is essential to enable a shift of our imperiled world to a sustainable path.

Can we make a difference? YES WE CAN. Please spread these and other JVNA messages to your rabbis, educators, media, Jewish leaders, politicians and, indeed, all you come in contact with and can contact. The fate of humanity may depend on our spreading these messages effectively.

Perhaps you are thinking that our making a significant difference is unlikely. But please consider the likelihood that a Black first term US senator from Illinois with a name like Barack Hussein Obama and with a pastor who has stated “G-d damn America” would be elected president.

We are living in a world of madness and sheer insanity and we must apply the moral madness of the biblical prophets, speaking in the Name of our G-d of compassion, truth and justice, challenging the current conditions that are so threatening the world.

Suggestions very welcome! Thanks.

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2. A Great Opportunity to Get DVDs to Many More People

As I have indicated several times, we have distributed almost 20,000 complimentary DVDs with our highly acclaimed documentary A SACRED DUTY: APPLYING JEWISH VALUES TO HELP SAVE THE WORLD to rabbis, Hillel directors, Jewish educators, JCC directors, media people, professors of religious courses, environmentalists, health professionals and many others. However, it is important that we get DVDs to many more people for the reasons indicated in the above item. Unfortunately, we are almost out of DVDs and we have limited financial resources.

Fortunately, a very dedicated volunteer has stepped forward and has volunteered to produce as many DVDs (and plain jackets) as we can use for only about 40 cents per DVD and cover. While the DVD and cover will not be as attractive as the DVDs and covers we have distributed so far, I feel that we must take advantage of this opportunity.

So, please consider requesting some DVDs for distribution to your local rabbis, educators, community leaders, synagogues and temples, etc. And please let us know about meetings, conferences and other opportunities to get DVDs to people. Also, if you can arrange a showing in your community, that would be wonderful and much appreciated.

Please also let people know that the complete documentary can be seen at

Other suggestions to promote vegetarianism are always welcome.

Many thanks.

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3. Chanukah and Vegetarianism

With Chanukah starting at sundown on December 21, we should connections between Chanukah and vegetarianism. Please read my article “Chanukah and Vegetarianism” at, and please use the material there for ideas for letters, articles and talking points.

A few quick considerations:

* All the traditional special Chanukah foods (potato latkes and sufganiyot Fried donuts)) are vegetarian (although not the healthiest of foods):

* The Macabbees ate only vegetarian foods while hiding in the mountains and unable to get kosher meat:

* Chanukah represents the triumph of non-conformity. The Maccabees stuck to their inner beliefs, rather than conforming to external pressure. They were willing to say: This I believe, this I stand for, this I am willing to struggle for. Today, vegetarians represent non-conformity. At a time when most people in the wealthier countries think of animal products as the main part of their meals, when the number of fast food establishments is growing rapidly, when almost all celebrations involve an abundance of animal products, vegetarians are resisting and insisting that there is a better, healthier, more humane diet.

* Chanukah represents the victory of the few, who practiced God's teachings, over the many, who acted according to the values of the surrounding society. Today vegetarians are a very small minority in most countries, but they believe that vegetarianism is the dietary approach most consistent with Jewish values, since it is consistent with God's original diet (Genesis 1:29) and with religious mandates to preserve our health, treat animals with compassion, protect the environment, preserve natural resources, and share with hungry people.

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4. Is Fur a Jewish Issue?

Al Gore has quipped, “Denial is not just a river in Egypt.” And one issue the Jewish community (and others) are in denial about is the great mistreatment of animals to wear fur, at a time when many other garments provide great warmth.

I have seen the article below to the Jewish media, as I have for many years. There has been very little response. Please forward the article to others who might be interested and to your local Jewish media, so they will see that there is interest in the subject. Many thanks.

Is Fur a Jewish Issue?

Jewish worshipers chant every Sabbath morning, "The soul of every living being shall praise God's name" (Nishmat kol chai tva'rech et shim'chah). Yet, some come to synagogue during the winter months wearing coats that required the cruel treatment of some of those living beings whose souls praise God.

To decide whether the use of fur is a significant Jewish issue, we should consider several related questions:

1) What does the Jewish tradition say about the treatment of animals?

2) How much suffering do animals raised or trapped for their fur experience?

3) Does the wearing of fur coats have redeeming factors that would over ride Jewish teachings related to the proper treatment of animals?


Judaism has beautiful and powerful teachings with regard to showing compassion to animals. The following are a few examples:

Moses and King David were considered worthy to be leaders of the jewish people because of their compassionate treatment of animals,when they were shepherds. Rebecca was judged suitable to be a wife of the patriarch Isaac because of her kindness in watering the ten camels of Eliezer, Abraham's servant. Rabbi Yehuda the Prince, the redactor of the Mishna, was punished for many years at the hand of Heaven for speaking callously to a calf being led to slaughter who sought refuge beside him.

Many Torah laws mandate proper treatment of animals. One may not muzzle an ox while it is working in the field nor yoke a strong and aweak animal together. Animals, as well as their masters, are meant to rest on the Sabbath day. The importance of this concept is indicated by the fact that it is mentioned in the Ten Commandments and on every sabbath morning as part of the kiddush ceremony.

The psalmist indicates G-d's concern for animals, stating that "His compassion is over all of His creatures" (Psalm 145:9). And there is a mitzvah (precept) in the Torah to emulate the Divine compassion, as it is written: "And you shall walk in His ways" (Deuteronomy 28:9). Perhaps the Jewish attitude toward animals is best expressed by Proverbs 12:10: "The righteous person considers the soul (life) of his or her animal." The Torah prohibits Jews from causing tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, any unnecessary pain, including psychological pain, to living creatures.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, an outstanding 19th century philosopher, author, and Torah commentator, eloquently summarizes the jewish view on treatment of animals:

Here you are faced with God's teaching, which obliges you not only to refrain from inflicting unnecessary pain on any animal, but to help and, when you can, to lessen the pain whenever you see an animal suffering, even through no fault of yours. (Horeb, Chapter 60, #416)


Fur is obtained from animals who are either trapped or raised on ranches. Both involve treatment of animals that appears to be far from the Jewish teachings that have been previously discussed:

Animals caught in steel-jaw leg hold traps suffer slow, agonizing deaths. Some are attacked by predators, freeze to death, or chew off their own legs to escape. It has been said that one can get a "feel for fur" by slamming your fingers in a car door. A Canadian Wildlife service report gives an idea of the terror that trapped animals face and their desperate efforts to escape:

The stomachs of [trapped] arctic foxes . . . often contain parts of their own bodies. They may swallow fragments of their teeth broken off in biting the trap, and sometimes part of a mangled foot; almost every stomach contains some fox fur, and a considerable number contain pieces of skin, claws, or bits of bone.

Over 100 million wild animals are killed for their pelts every year. Many species of animals killed for their furs have become endangered or have disappeared completely from some localities.Millions of animals not wanted by trappers, including dogs, cats, and birds, die in traps annually and are discarded as "trash animals." Many trapped animals leave behind dependent offspring who are doomed to starvation.

Treatment of animals raised on "fur ranches" is also extremely cruel. Confined to lifelong confinement, millions of foxes, beavers, minks, ocelots, rabbits, chinchillas, and other animals await extinction nothing to do, little room to move, and all their natural instincts thwarted. The animals are simply a means to the maximizing of production and profit, and there is no regard for their physical, mental, or emotional well being. Because of the enforced confinement and lack of privacy, naturally wild animals often exhibit neurotic behaviors such as compulsive movements and self mutilation. The animals finally suffer hideous deaths by electrocution by rods thrust up their anuses, by suffocation, by poisoning, which causes painful muscle cramping, or by having their necks broken.

According to the International Society for Animal Rights, Inc.,to make one fur garment requires 400 squirrels; 240 ermine; 200 chinchillas; 120 muskrats; 80 sables; 50 martens; 30 raccoons; 22 bobcats; 12 lynx; or 5 wolves.


Judaism puts human beings on a higher level than animals and indicates that animals may be harmed and even killed if an essential human need is met. However, is the wearing of fur truly necessary for people to stay warm during wintry weather? There are many non-fur coats and hats, available in a variety of styles, that provide much warmth. Imitation fur is produced at such a high level of quality that even among Chasidim there is a small but growing trend to wear synthetic "shtreimlach" (fur-trimmed hats).

Based on the prohibition of tsa'ar ba'alei chayim, Rabbi Chaim Dovid Halevy, Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Tel Aviv issued a p'sak (rabbinic ruling) in March, 1992, indicating that Jews should not wear fur. Rabbi Halevy asked: "Why should people be allowed to kill animals if it is not necessary, simply because they desire the pleasure of having the beauty and warmth of fur coats? Is it not possible to achieve the same degree of warmth without fur?"

In his book, The Jewish Encyclopedia of Moral and Ethical Issues, Rabbi Nachum Amsel, a modern Israeli educator, states: "If the only reason a person wears the fur coat is to "show off" one's wealth or to be a mere fashion statement, that would be considered to be a frivolous and not a legitimate need. Rabbi Amsel also points out that hunting for sport is prohibited because it is not considered a legitimate need (Avodah Zarah 18b).


The Talmud teaches that Jews are "rachmanim b'nei rachmanim," compassionate children of compassionate ancestors (Beitza 32b). One has to wonder if the wearing of fur is consistent with that challenging mandate.

Are the words of Isaiah valid today if we fail to show compassion to animals?

Even though you make many prayers,I will not listen. Your hands are full of blood. (Isaiah 1:12-15)

What kind of lesson in Jewish values are young people getting when they see worshippers coming to synagogue in fur coats on the Sabbath day?

Not only do animals benefit from our compassion and concern -- we, too, benefit by becoming more sensitive and more humane, as Jews and civilized human beings.

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6. Resolution on Energy To Be Sent to Jewish Center for Public Affairs Plenum

Forwarded message from Max Stern of the San Antonio CRC::

Dear Energy and Environment Committee members,

The San Antonio CRC has submitted a Resolution on Energy to be presented at the JCPA plenum which I have attached and we are now seeking co-sponsors. We need four JCPA agencies as co-sponsors, at least two CRCs and two national agencies. We must have our co-sponsors lined up by Dec. 15 at which time the resolutions are distributed to the field.

I hope each of you will consider co-sponsoring this resolution. I am aware that each of your agencies will have its own procedures for deciding on co-sponsorship, so I am hopeful that you will move expeditiously in an effort to get a decision in time for the Dec. 15 deadline.

This resolution has already been reviewed by a number of individuals and most of their comments, suggestions, etc. have been incorporated. We will, of course, be happy to entertain the suggestions of potential co-sponsors, but, in view of the short turnaround time, I would ask that you focus any suggestions on substantive issues, rather than editorial changes, wordsmithing, etc. Once it is sent into the field there will undoubtedly be additional suggestions, so there will be ample opportunity for editorial changes at that time Keferand also when it is debated at the Plenum.

Thank you for your support and for considering our resolution

Mike Stern


Draft Resolution on Comprehensive Energy Policy

Primary Sponsor: San Antonio Community Relations Council

Preliminary Case Statement: Although the JCPA has existing policies on energy, they focus primarily on the environment and climate change. This resolution addresses the complex interplay between environmental policies and national security, both that of the U. S. and Israel. The resolution contrasts those policies that serve both objectives with those that serve one objective over the other. In addition, existing JCPA policy on energy is relatively non-specific in a number of areas. This resolution addresses specific areas such as the possible role of increased domestic oil production in enhancing national security as part of a comprehensive energy plan and the disadvantages of certain biofuels such as corn-based ethanol that are inefficient and have the potential of competing for food supplies.

Process: This topic was raised at the October EOSJ Task Force meeting at which it was approved as appropriate for policy development in the form of a resolution.


The United States needs a comprehensive energy policy both to fight global warming and to enhance national security. The policies for achieving these two goals are largely, although not completely, overlapping, but the relationship between them is complex.

Most major oil producing nations are either overtly hostile to the United States or have national interests inimical to ours. These nations include Iran, Venezuela, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. Although the United States buys foreign oil mainly from friendly powers such as Canada and Mexico, our consumption contributes to sustaining high world oil prices, thereby benefiting hostile powers, even if we do not buy from them directly.

Reducing U. S. oil consumption, whether by conservation, greater efficiency, or the development of alternative fuels, would not only reduce the carbon emissions that exacerbate global warming, but would put downward pressure on world oil prices, thereby putting stress on the economies of nations that are hostile, not only to the U. S., but also to Israel.

Increased domestic oil production would also put downward pressure on world oil prices. Although this too would benefit our national security, it would not contribute to mitigating global warming.

As an example of the interplay between environmental and national security goals, transferring the energy requirements of our transportation sector to the electric grid, would reduce our dependence on oil, thereby lowering its world price. Although this would contribute to our national security, its effect on global warming would depend on how the extra electricity was produced. If it were produced by wind, solar, and/or nuclear reactors, the effect on climate change would be beneficial. Producing it with coal, on the other hand, would offset, although perhaps not completely, any environmental benefits resulting from reduced gasoline consumption.

Substituting biofuels for oil in our transportation sector would also put downward pressure on world oil prices. However, not all biofuels are created equal. Ethanol produced from corn is the least efficient biofuel. Moreover, diverting corn to fuel for vehicles has the potential of putting upward pressure on food prices with adverse effects on world food supplies. Ethanol from sugar cane, on the other hand, produced mainly in Brazil, is more efficient than corn-based ethanol. The creation of cane fields, however, almost always requires clearcutting of tropical forests, thereby reducing global carbon sinks. Cellulosic biofuels and biodiesel from algae have the advantage that they do not divert food crops to fuel for vehicles.

The federal government recently passed legislation to increase fuel efficiently standards on passenger vehicles including SUVs and light trucks. The Supreme Court has ruled that under the Clean Air Act California and those states that wish to follow its lead can impose stricter standards. However, the Environmental Protection Agency has blocked this, causing California, joined by other states, to sue them.

The JCPA believes that:

1) the United States should develop a comprehensive energy plan aimed both at mitigating the effects of climate change and at enhancing national security.
2) cap and trade programs or carbon taxes should be supported, since they would result in more appropriate pricing of fossil fuels by taking account of externalities, such as environmental effects, that purely market-based prices ignore.
3) Although the JCPA has in general opposed offshore drilling, support for such a policy, providing appropriate environmental controls are incorporated, should not be ruled out providing it is part of a comprehensive energy plan. For example, it could become part of a compromise that includes elements supported by environmentalists that might otherwise lack sufficient support to pass on their own. Offshore drilling should be thought of, not as the ultimate solution, but as a bridge to a carbon-free future.
4) Although development and production of a broad range of alternative energy sources should be supported, corn-based ethanol is problematic, since it is inefficient and has the potential of competing for the world's food supply. The tariffs on Brazilian ethanol and other ethanol derived from sugar cane should be eliminated.

The JCPA and its member agencies should:

1) advocate for the positions stated above to opinion leaders both locally and nationally and to the incoming Administration and the new Congress.
2) encourage the incoming administration to reverse the policy of the previous administration that denied the State of California authority to regulate carbon dioxide emissions from automobiles.

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7. Campaign to Urge President-Elect Obama to Prioritize Action on Climate Change

Forwarded message from Jennifer Kefer of COEJL:

Click here (or copy and paste in your browser)

to tell President-Elect Obama to Prioritize Action on Climate Change.

Jewish values of justice and stewardship compel us to address the challenges of climate change as a national priority. President-Elect Obama has spoken of his commitment to pursue immediate, effective action upon taking office to address our climate emergency. He will need our help in facing the nay-sayers, obstacles and opposition to his creative, broad-reaching initiatives. Please join us in showing President-elect Obama that we stand behind him as he works to make addressing climate change a national priority. Click here to send the President-elect a letter.

Please forward to others in your community.

Jennifer Kefer

Climate and Energy Program Coordinator
Coalition on the Environment and Jewish Life (COEJL)
1775 K St. NW Suite 320
Washington, D.C. 20006
202-212-6002 (fax)

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8. Israeli Clerics Pray for Rain

Religious clerics pray together for rain on Kinneret

By Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz Correspondent
Tags: Interfaith, Kinneret

Rabbi Shlomo Didi knows Lake Kinneret well. As rabbi of the Jordan Valley and a resident of Tiberias, Didi has not only married couples beside the Kinneret, he has also offered prayers for rain along its shoreline, which has receded markedly.

On Monday Didi was again praying for rain - but this time, he was not alone. He was joined by Ian Clark, the priest of the Scottish church, and Muhammad Dahamshe, the Imam of Kafr Kana.

"A joint prayer does not consider differences of religion," says Didi. "There is one god, we are all human beings and are all praying to the same god."

"The dismal condition of the Kinneret threatens each and every one of us," said Shimon Kipnis, general manager of the Scots Hotel, which initiated the joint prayer, and on whose beach the prayers were held. "We see how the shoreline is receding and that the water level is nearing the 'black line.' The purpose of this event was to unite all the religions and offer a joint prayer to the creator of the universe, that he bless us with a rainy season."

Kipnis added that creating cooperation between the three religions was one of the hotel's objectives, and that calling upon the representative clerics was a natural step.

"They were only too happy to accept my suggestion," said Kipnis.

Dozens of artists who also participated in the event sat on the beach and painted the service.

"Rain is a blessing that brings joy, and we have to pray for it," said Didi, who also serves as rabbi for the kibbutzim. Some of those present at the prayer service related Monday that the rabbi's previous prayers had been answered, and were indeed followed by rainfall.

"We hope that his prayers will be answered this time, too."

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9. NY Times Front Page Article Connects Animal-Agriculture to Global Climate Change,%20A%20New%20Bid%20to%20Cut%20Emissions&st=cse

As More Eat Meat, a Bid to Cut Emissions

The United Nations expects beef and pork consumption to double between 2000 and 2050.

Published: December 3, 2008

STERKSEL, the Netherlands - The cows and pigs dotting these flat green plains in the southern Netherlands create a bucolic landscape. But looked at through the lens of greenhouse gas accounting, they are living smokestacks, spewing methane emissions into the air.

The farm at Sterksel makes electricity for itself and for sale, and sells carbon credits.

That is why a group of farmers-turned-environmentalists here at a smelly but impeccably clean research farm have a new take on making a silk purse from a sow's ear: They cook manure from their 3,000 pigs to capture the methane trapped within it, and then use the gas to make electricity for the local power grid.

Rising in the fields of the environmentally conscious Netherlands, the Sterksel project is a rare example of fledgling efforts to mitigate the heavy emissions from livestock. But much more needs to be done, scientists say, as more and more people are eating more meat around the world.

What to do about farm emissions is one of the main issues being discussed this week and next, as the environment ministers from 187 nations gather in Poznan, Poland, for talks on a new treaty to combat global warming. In releasing its latest figure on emissions last month, United Nations climate officials cited agriculture and transportation as the two sectors that remained most “problematic.”

“It's an area that's been largely overlooked,” said Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Nobel Prize-winning United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. He says people should eat less meat to control their carbon footprints. “We haven't come to grips with agricultural emissions.”

The trillions of farm animals around the world generate 18 percent of the emissions that are raising global temperatures, according to United Nations estimates, more even than from cars, buses and airplanes.

But unlike other industries, like cement making and power, which are facing enormous political and regulatory pressure to get greener, large-scale farming is just beginning to come under scrutiny as policy makers, farmers and scientists cast about for solutions.


Flatus and manure from animals contain not only methane, but also nitrous oxide, an even more potent warming agent. And meat requires energy for refrigeration as it moves from farm to market to home.


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10. Web Site Facilitates Letters to Publications Throughout the World

Forwarded message:

Dear Richard:

Thanks for getting back to me. Here are some key features of the site.
One can send letters to the editors of all the key English language newspapers in the world.

Since letters are often not printed, they can be posted on the site immediately or after a time delay.

No mass mailing and no spam. The same letter can not be mass mailed to multiple publications.

The site is neutral - it has no editorial content of its own.

Please visit the site. (

You will find the audience serious and global.


Tapan Chakrabarty
Managing Partner LLC

Tel: 954 366 7031
Fax: 954 333 3600

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11. Major Article in New Scientist Magazine Stresses Dietary Connections to Global Warming

"What is your dinner doing to the climate?"

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12. Recent Articles on the Agriprocessors Situation

Published on
Agriprocessors: The Gift That Keeps On Giving
By Shmarya Rosenberg
Created 11/30/2008 - 00:30

Since I last posted on Agriprocessors, shortly after the company was hit with more than 9,000 counts of child labor violations, the company's "former" CEO (and still current VP) Rabbi Sholom M. Rubashkin was arrested on felony immigration and identity fraud charges. That was followed two weeks later by his second arrest on felony bank fraud charges. Rubashkin faces more that 50 years in federal prison, along with more time in state lockup.

Agriprocessors itself was indicted shortly after Rubashkin's second arrest, and the company faces millions of dollars in fines.

Early in November, Agriprocessors declared bankruptcy. Then, on November 14, the day of Rubashkin's first federal arrest, Agriprocessors missed its payroll, leaving workers - many of them already poor - without money and, in many cases, food. Production ceased shortly after.

Now Agriprocessors' court-appointed trustee, Joseph Sarachek of New York, is trying to restart production and pay workers - at least those workers who play ball with the company.

In effect, Sarachek is running a plantation with slavery replaced by indentured servitude. If workers come back to work, they will be given back wages owed to them in dribs and drabs. If they do not come back to work, they will need to wait for the final bankruptcy settlement - which means they likely will never see any money. Secured creditors like banks get paid first, and Agriprocessors has more debt now, including potential fines, than industry experts I've spoken with believe it has equity.

Sarachek told me Friday that he wants "everyone" to be repaid, but said the "budget" he has been given and US bankruptcy law prevents him from doing more for workers.

Sarachek's press release announcing the possible resumption of production and repayment of selected workers tells workers to contact plant spokesman Chaim Abrahams with questions.

Abrahams - a fierce Rubashkin partisan and a fellow member of the Chabad-Lubavitch hasidic sect - is one of the figures in Agriprocessors most distrusted by workers. Throughout the 6 1/2 month crisis, Abrahams has defended almost every action of the company. He has repeatedly denied the company abused workers or shorted their pay.

Abrahams also tried to silence Postville's community radio station, KPVL, and fire or censor its main on-air personality, Jeff Abbas. Abrahams is especially upset by Abbas' airing of interviews done with former workers, calling the bad news about the company "divisive" and bad for Postville.

Abrahams sits on the radio station's board. The station is a nonprofit, and Abrahams should have resigned from that board immediately after the May 12 raid. He did not. Instead, he tried to use his position and influence to remove Abbas.

Along with running KPVL, Abbas stepped in to fill the void left by city inaction. As Agriprocessors workers found themselves broke, hungry and sometimes homeless, Abbas lobbied state officials to bring in relief. When the mayor heard that Jewish families were going hungry because they lacked kosher food, he turned to Abbas, who led a successful emergency drive to get kosher food for Postville's Jews.

Before that, Abbas started an impromptu 7-day soup kitchen and food shelf in Postville's multicultural center next to his radio station to augment the existing 3-day-per-week community food shelf. The city objected to this use of the multicultural center and repeatedly tried to shut the Abbas soup kitchen/food shelf down. At the same time, the city made no attempt to pick up the the slack that this shutdown, if successful, would bring.

On Friday, November 21, state, county and city officials, along with volunteers like Abbas, met in Postville to try to coordinate relief efforts. Under pressure, the city agreed to use Turner Hall, an unoccupied city-owned landmark, as a relief center.

According to volunteers (and according to the sign posted on the building's entrance) the relief center was supposed to be open seven days a week, staffed by volunteers.

But, when volunteers showed up Saturday morning, they found the building locked tight. No one from the city came to open it or returned their calls. Hungry Agriprocessors workers were left on the streets to fend for themselves - a situation the city has seemed quite happy with these past few months.

Among Agriprocessors' dispossessed, Abbas has become the go-to person for all types of help. He has helped find dozens transportation home - whether that home is Indianapolis or Palau, the South Sea island where some of the newer Agriprocessors workers are from.

So when one of those dispossessed heard others talking about robbing stores and holding Rubashkin family members at gunpoint to get the money owed them, the worker made a beeline to Abbas.

Abbas smartly recorded the worker's story and then called the county sheriff (it was too early in the morning to call Postville's tiny police department, which was closed). After that, Abbas called the mayor and a prominent member of the Jewish community. He did not air the threat because he did not want to create panic.

Three hours after first informing law enforcement, Abbas decided the threat should be publicly available information, so he sent the audio to me. I published it immediately and urged the Jewish community to take precautions, including evacuating its private school.

Abbas's decision infuriated both Postville's city administration and the Jewish community - even though at the time I posted the audio reinforcements from the county sheriff had still not arrived in Postville (they were "on the way," a law enforcement source told me, and should be arriving "soon"; remember, this is three full hours after Abbas first called), and Postville's tiny police force did not have the capability on its own to handle the threat.

Iowa media picked up on the threat, the JTA later blogged about it, and the attention helped push through the coordinated relief effort mentioned above - the same relief effort the city is now undermining.

Meanwhile, we also recently learned that the undocumented Agriprocessors workers released from federal prison after serving five month sentences for aggravated identity theft are being supported entirely by St. Bridget's Catholic Church.

The workers have to remain in the country until they testify at Agriprocessors' and Sholom M. Rubashkin's trials, along with the trials of other indicted Agriprocessors managers. But they have no means of support. Their temporary work permits arrived weeks after their release and, in any case, jobs are very scarce in Postville these days.

But that scarcity of work does not apply to the Rubashkin family.

I asked Agriprocessors' trustee, Joseph Sarachek, if Rubashkin family members like Sholom M. Rubashkin's brother, Heshy (also an Agriprocessors VP) or Sholom M.'s son Getzel would be employed by the company if production restarts Monday or Tuesday.

"Yes," Sarachek said.

I asked him why.

"I need their experience," Sarachek replied.

Ditto for Chaim Abrahams, the Agriprocessors spokesman and would-be censor who Sarachek named point man for workers' questions.

"It's like triage," Sarachek said, "I have to work with what I've got."

What Sarachek has is far more than what most workers and unsecured creditors will ever see - real income from Agriprocessors.

Can meat produced through a modern form of indentured servitude be kosher?

Joseph Sarachek's grandfather, the late Rabbi Joseph Sarachek, was at one time the head of the NYC Board of Rabbis.

I wonder how Rabbi Sarachek would answer that question.

The Fall of the House of Rubashkin

As the nation's largest kosher empire implodes, Brooklyn's ultra-Orthodox Jews begin to break ranks

By Elizabeth Dwoskin/ The Village Voice / NY
published: December 03, 2008

Conditions-for animals and people-at Agriprocessors have even loyal supporters of the Rubashkins wondering.
Jeremy Bales

Until three years ago, Miriam Shear and her husband were philanthropists who had given hundreds of thousands of dollars to Jewish charities, supporting schools in Boca Raton, Florida, Memphis, and Louisville. They say that the Rubashkins' strong-arm business practices drove them into bankruptcy.

The Shears had grown wealthy selling alarm systems and life insurance. As members of a small community of Orthodox Jews living in Memphis, they ran a successful kosher-food bank that served a few hundred Jewish families. Incensed at what they say were astronomical prices for kosher food-a three-pound block of cheese at Kroeger's, the only grocery in town, cost $25-the couple decided to open a rival store in 2003. They called their business the Kosher Case Club. Hoping to expand into meat and poultry, Shear met with Heshy Rubashkin at Lubinsky's annual kosher-food show in New York. But Heshy, who was already doing a brisk business with Kroeger's, refused to sell to her, she says.


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13. Vegan Guide to New York City - 2009 Published

Forwarded message:

This just in ..... Perhaps, a gift for the holidays?

The Vegan Guide to New York City-2009 is now in restaurants, bookstores and health food stores throughout New York City.

The Vegan Guide to New York City--2009 is a comprehensive guidebook to the restaurants and shopping resources of New York City. Now in its fifteenth edition, The Vegan Guide has been praised by The New York Times for being "a portable conscience," and by the New York Daily News for being "a very complete guide."

Authored by Rynn Berry, the historical advisor to the North American Vegetarian Society, it is written with panache, wit, and style.

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14. Can We Create a Sane US Food Policy?

'Yes We Can' Create a Sane Food Policy in the US

by Bruce Friedrich

Two extensive reports released in April indicate that our current method of devising food policy is broken and that the current system is doing tremendous harm in many areas, including those that are of particular interest to President-elect Obama: human health, the environment, and global poverty.

The first of these reports, "Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America <> ," was produced by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, a major project of the Pew Foundation and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The Commission comprised 15 members, including ranchers and health-focused professors (e.g., Marion Nestle) as well as a former governor of Kansas (John Carlin), a former secretary of agriculture (Dan Glickman), a former assistant surgeon general/chief of staff to the surgeon general, and the president of the Western Montana Stockgrowers Association. After more than two years of research, which included heavy lobbying by the meat industries, the Commission released its report explicitly comparing the state of agriculture today to the "military industrial complex" feared by Dwight Eisenhower. Upon investigation, the Commission found what it calls an "agro-industrial complex-an alliance of agricultural commodity groups, scientists at academic institutions who are paid by the industry, and their friends on Capitol Hill."

One of the truisms of Washington politics is that agribusiness won't allow a sane food policy in the U.S. This sad fact is just as true of Democratic as of Republican administrations, as detailed by investigative journalist Eric Schlosser <> and the Center for Public Integrity <> (CPI). Both wrote their strongest expos├ęs about the issue during the Clinton administration. And although I'm currently discussing the executive branch, the problem infects Congress as well-whether under Democratic or Republican control (as documented by the Pew Commission, Schlosser, and the CPI).

The results of the farmed-animal industry's self-governance have been disastrous. As the Commission explains, "Our diminishing land capacity for producing food animals, combined with dwindling freshwater supplies, escalating energy costs, nutrient overloading of soil, and increased antibiotic resistance, will result in a crisis unless new laws and regulations go into effect in a timely fashion. ... This process must begin immediately and be fully implemented within 10 years" [emphasis added]. In its executive summary, the Commission writes, "Commissioners have determined that the negative effects of the [factory animal farming] system are too great and the scientific evidence is too strong to ignore. Significant changes must be implemented and must start now."

A similar report ("CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations <>") by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) was also released in April, reaching similar conclusions and making similar recommendations.

In addition to the other issues, the UCS report details the tens of billions of dollars the meat industry receives in taxpayer subsidies every year. Remarkably, factory farms are so economically inefficient that factory farm representatives claim <,0,2060635.story> the entire meat industry would cease to exist if forced to pay even a tiny fraction back in the form of meaningful clean-air legislation.

Sadly, but not surprisingly, not one of either reports' recommendations was included in either the House or Senate versions of the Farm Bill-or even meaningfully discussed.

In January-another Obama first-we will have a president who has shown a keen interest in the problem: The Obamas famously shop at Whole Foods and eat organic vegetables-so the president-elect has his personal house in order. Impressively, he also understands and cares about the broader implications of our food policy.

On August 1, at a forum in St. Petersburg, Florida, Obama discussed (watch video <>) the fact that funneling grains through animals is inefficient, which is contributing to food shortages and even food riots in the developing world. At home, he pointed out that agribusiness subsidies are vastly inefficient, that they neglect the healthiest foods, and that American health would benefit from a change in diet. He declared that we need "to reexamine our overall food policy ...."

The issue was still on his mind when he spoke with Joe Klein <> from Time magazine in October, when he brought up Michael Pollan's recent New York Times Magazine letter to the "farmer in chief." Obama discussed food policy like a pro, arguing that the U.S. needs-but doesn't have-a comprehensive policy approach. Obama explained that our lack of a sane and coherent food policy poses significant environmental, health, and national security problems.

Of course, understanding the problem and fixing it are two very different things.

First, Obama must pick a secretary of agriculture who does not have ties to agribusiness and who has not spent her or his career defending the status quo. Three names that are being discussed in the media-Charlie Stenholm, Colin Peterson, and John Salazar-would be horrible choices, as these men have supported the status quo consistently and would be very unlikely to support even the most modest of reforms. Even on noncontroversial animal welfare measures, they have gone against the will of the American people to support the worst policies imaginable-including horse slaughter and the sport-hunting of polar bears-even when the vast majority of Congress, including Sen. Obama, were going the other way.

Second, PETA is recommending the creation of a National Food Policy Council (NFPC) to coordinate food policy, which is currently far too disparate to be efficient or wise. We have the National Economic Council, now run by Larry Summers, that looks at interagency economic policy, with a focus on efficiency and sound policy. And we expect that Obama will follow the advice of John Podesta, who recommends a cabinet-level "Department of International Development" in his superb book, The Power of Progress. Similarly, we desperately need a food-policy council, which could include Rep. Rosa DeLauro's proposal <> for a food-safety agency but with a broader mission.

One specific policy initiative that the new NFPC should address is the placement of the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in the USDA. The current situation represents a conflict of interest that is harming the health of our nation's young people. Because the USDA exists to promote U.S. agriculture-not to improve human health-the NSLP has become a dumping ground for the meat and dairy industries at the expense of children's health.

A similar issue exists regarding poverty alleviation. Currently, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program provides women with up to 28 quarts of milk or 4 pounds of cheese per month, both of which are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. However, the program skimps on vegetables, allowing a monthly total of only 2 pounds of carrots (for breast-feeding women only) and 1 pound of beans-no other whole vegetables or fruits are allowed. The WIC program should be administered by the Department of Health and Human Services, not the USDA, for the same reasons that there should be a shift for the NSLP.

The president-elect has committed to implementing sweeping changes that will improve the nation's health, protect the global environment, and address the problems of domestic and global poverty. He should start by appointing an independent-minded secretary of agriculture who shares his concern for our nation's youth, our national health, global development, the environment, and animals, and he should create a National Food Policy Council and appoint a food-policy "czar" to oversee and coordinate a comprehensive and forward-thinking policy.

Bruce Friedrich is vice president of policy and government affairs for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals <> . He has been a progressive activist for more than 20 years.

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15. Helping Vegetarian Groups and Businesses in This Difficult Economic Time

Forwarded message from JVNA advisor and author Dan Brook:

Many restaurants, along with most other businesses, are having a really tough time during this recession. Some are laying off workers, reducing hours/services, or closing altogether. So, if we can afford to, we should patronize and support veg restaurants, businesses, and organizations to show support, thereby keeping them going and growing.



The Vegetarian Mitzvah

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